By Brianne Zorn, Mayor, City of Martinez

This summer my family traveled to the United Kingdom to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary.
We visited sites in England, Wales, and Scotland. On August 2, we added a very special stop to our itinerary: Dunbar, Scotland, one of the five sister cities of Martinez.
The express train from Edinburgh was smooth and comfortable as the view from the train transitioned quickly from the urban city to the rural countryside.
We deboarded a short 30 minutes later at Dunbar Station, a small building the size of the old Martinez Train Depot. We were met by a member of the John Muir Historical Society who escorted us to their downtown for a tour of the city; the John Muir Birthplace Museum, and to meet with other dignitaries.
Our sister city program, or city twinning program as they say in Scotland, is an appropriate one as John Muir began his life in Dunbar and spent his final days in Martinez. The John Muir Birthplace highlights his early years, his family’s emigration to Wisconsin as a boy, his experiences in California, his involvement in the formation of the U.S. National Parks system, and his world travels.
Our hosts included members of the East Lothian Council (comparable to our Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors), board members and volunteers of the John Muir Birthplace, East Lothian Museum services staff, and a former sister city exchange student who visited Martinez in 1995. They hosted us for a picnic of sandwiches (on white bread and cut into perfect crustless squares! ) in the council chambers of the Dunbar Town House, which has consistently been the center of town life since the 16th century.
I enjoyed our conversations and will fondly remember the realization that we all had been mispronouncing each other’s cities: I smiled smugly as they referred to my town as Martinez and then was simultaneously embarrassed to learn their town is pronounced Dunbar.

Despite the unseasonably cold, wet, rainy conditions, we enjoyed our tour of our sister city. Dunbar has a beautiful and dramatic waterfront. Their modern town elegantly incorporates historical buildings, including castle ruins, a centuries-old harbor, and a chapel.
They have a vibrant downtown centered on High Street with diverse retail businesses surrounded by residential areas, including affordable housing complexes. They have a state-of-the-art indoor public swimming pool built along the waterfront with a two-story waterslide that stole the heart of my 8-year-old. There is so much to learn from our sister cities in other countries. What did I learn from this visit? It is important for us to rebuild relationships that may have slowly faded over time with the leaders of our sister cities.
I hope to jumpstart our sister city exchange program again, inviting Dunbar students into our homes and sending our high school students to Scotland. As a high school exchange student myself, the experiences I gained living with a family in another country shaped my world outlook. Dunbar also reminded me of the value of walkability in our town by supporting housing near retail areas. I was reminded that the historical attributes of our town are what makes Martinez so special and how lucky we are to have the beautiful waterfront that we need to continue working diligently to improve.
Lastly, they too have trails named in honor of John Muir. I hope that one day we will be able to connect existing Martinez hiking trails into a complete John Muir Heritage Trail with a final connection to Scotland’s John Muir Way: a 134-mile East-West walking and cycling path that starts at the harbor in Dunbar, the birthplace of John Muir.
Are you planning a trip to Scotland? Include Dunbar in your visit and tour the John Muir birthplace: